Northland Deputy Principal Rural Fire Officer Rory Renwick said crews responded to two fires near Russell, in the Bay of Islands, over the weekend relating to a tree contacting overhead powerlines on private property.
“Fortunately the fires were reported early and a quick response from local crews, backed up by a helicopter with a monsoon bucket, contained the fires before they caused significant damage.”
However, the large amounts of highly flammable scrub intermixed with houses in the area, meant the fires had potential to leave some residents trapped and cause a major incident in the hot, dry and windy conditions, says Mr Renwick.
“The fire caused by the trees on the service line could have resulted in much more damage to the local landscape and people's property.
“Things are getting really dry in the North now so the risk of fire is clearly increasing and we don’t want to see any loss of property, houses or injury to people in our community,” says Mr Renwick.
Landowners can also seek advice from their local electricity lines company to confirm which lines are private service lines that need to be maintained, and which are main distribution lines maintained by a lines company.
Northland electricity lines companies Top Energy and Northpower say the fires in Russell are a timely reminder that landowners need to be aware of their obligations around service lines.
Service lines are the overhead or underground electricity lines which run from the street or road to houses or other buildings on landowners' property.
The companies say landowners are responsible for the upkeep of powerlines, poles and underground cables that supply electricity from the Top Energy or Northpower networks to their property.
Russell Shaw, Top Energy's Chief Executive is in encouraging landowners to keep trees well away from powerlines and service lines.
“We need people be aware of their service lines and arrange to have trees and vegetation within 4 metres removed. Our advice is that if you are concerned that trees have grown too close, you should seek assistance from an arborist," says Mr Shaw.
"It is a message we have been trying to get out to our community in conjunction with Northpower for some time now and it really is a very serious issue that people need to act on."
Northpower Network General Manager Josie Boyd shares the concerns of Top Energy and Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
"Separate to the tree issue which fires in Russell have recently highlighted, we would urge all Northlanders to regularly check their service lines to ensure they are in good condition, and do not pose a safety hazard or fire risk. People should phone their electrician if they are unsure," says Northpower Network General Manager Josie Boyd.
Alternatively, people can phone Top Energy (Far North District) on 0800 867 363 or Northpower (Kaipara and Whangarei Districts) on 0800 10 40 40 for advice. In case of fire, phone 111 immediately to report the location.